FROM: Truism Strategies, LLC
TO: Texas GOP members
As you’re no doubt aware, the impeachment hearings currently being held before the House Intelligence Committee have created something of a media circus. For whatever reason, the press continues to be fascinated by this inquiry into alleged abuses of power by a sitting president, and it seems all too eager to turn its clandestine whistleblowers, bombshell testimonies, and attempts at witness intimidation into something sensationalistic. Worse, the media has shown that it fully intends to rope others into its tawdry narrative, often going so far as to summarize the day’s events for elected officials, then ask for their thoughts.
Obviously, many of us had hoped that the numbing erosion of norms, the dismantling of public trust in the media, and the kickoff of the holiday shopping season might have been enough to waylay journalists from their self-appointed jobs. But recent weeks have made clear their doggedness—and whereas you once may have been able to avoid answering their questions by focusing on the process, increasingly the press seems to expect you to comment on the actual substance. We don’t have to tell you that this is a precarious situation. On behalf of our consulting firm, we have compiled some effective strategies on how to deal with any journalists who might ask you about impeachment proceedings, without risking the gaffe of actually committing to an opinion.
Strategy #1: Say that you’re too busy.
This tried-and-true response has everything you could want in a dismissal. It conveys just how insignificant you think the impeachment hearings are within the grand scheme of government. It reaffirms your commitment to your constituents, while shading those leading the inquiry as less interested in theirs. It subtly shames the press for being more interested in spectacle than serious legislative business. And finally, it ensures zero follow-ups, because you’re too busy for questions. As Senator John Cornyn recently demonstrated while talking to The Hill, it’s as easy as “I think it’s a political sideshow, and I’ve got more important things to do.” (Of course, we must remind you that anyone using this defense should refrain from later calling the same impeachment inquiry “impossible to ignore,” or criticizing it dozens of times per week on their Twitter feeds. Consistency is key!)
Strategy #2: Remind them that real people don’t care.
If the noble weight of your responsibilities doesn’t prove an effective bludgeon, consider invoking the salt-of-the-earth citizens you’re sworn to represent, and how they surely don’t care about something so inside-baseball as whether the president might have committed any crimes. Look at Senator Cornyn again: “I just don’t think that a lot of my constituents are paying that much attention to it because they’ve got lives to lead and other important things to do,” he recently told The Hill. “I think Washington being a hotbed of politics everybody here is obsessed with it but I don’t think the rest of the country is obsessed with it.” Indeed, why should the American people—what with their jobs and getting the kids off to soccer practice and such—be interested in something so niche as the attempted forcible removal of one of the most controversial presidents in U.S. history? Do journalists think everyone is some lazy, ivory tower elitist like them? Keep this rhetoric up until the chastened member of the press finally slinks off to profile some regular folks in a rural diner.
Strategy #3: Fake a phone call.
Occasionally, some especially unscrupulous reporter may hit you with a question that can’t be so easily waved away. You may be asked to comment on something more specific, such as whether President Trump attacking a witness mid-testimony could possibly be construed as a negative. This is the time to fake an important phone call. When you see the press approaching, simply pull out your phone and start talking into it: “Hello, Texan constituent, how can I help get your kids to soccer practice today?” Just don’t be like Representative John Ratcliffe, who forgot that his home screen was still showing and really bunged things up for everyone! Call one of your assistants, or your spouse, or local time and temperature. Did you know that if you call 248-434-5508, you’ll hear a recording of Rick Astley’s 1987 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up”? Save this number in your contacts as “Rick” and you’ll always have someone to talk to in a pinch—someone who’ll never let you down or desert you.
Strategy #4: Fake a human friendship.
Your fellow lawmakers aren’t simply mercenary allies with whom you are tenuously united by a few mutually beneficial self-interests, at least until the day comes when it would be more advantageous to knife you in the back. They’re actual people with families and feelings and soccer-practicing kids of their own. Try throwing an arm around one and chatting loudly about friend-type things in the hallway—sports teams, moms, drinking beers, lobbyists—and the journalist will instantly be transported back to their days of being an unpopular loser in high school, likely scurrying off to the parking lot to smoke and listen to The Cure.
Strategy #5: Duck into an elevator.
If more evasive maneuvers are required, take your cues from Representative Dan Crenshaw, who recently applied his expert tactical training toward ducking a couple of activists. Confronted by two fellow combat veterans who wanted to know how he could justify his continued support of Trump, Crenshaw strode calmly down the halls of the Cannon House Office Building, then masterfully slipped inside a private elevator, telling his persecutors that it was for members only. Although those activists ultimately didn’t respect the sanctity of the elevator, forcing Crenshaw to walk away and find another safe space, he also didn’t have to answer any of their questions, which means he won.
Strategy #6: Pull out a big book and pretend to be thoroughly engrossed.
Look, you didn’t come to Congress to socialize. Can’t the press see that you’re totally enthralled by this Tom Clancy novel, and you’re allowing the prose of one of our greatest living novelists to wash over you while the jejune drabness of real life fades into the background? Don’t they have any respect for classic literature? These people call themselves writers, right?
Strategy #7: Adopt an enormous, slobbery Marmaduke-type dog.
Shrug apologetically while the big, lovable galoot pulls you on his leash past the press phalanx, yanking you this way and that through the halls of Congress to upend food carts, track his muddy paw prints everywhere, and provoke all sorts of comic mayhem. That dog’s a real handful, but everybody loves him!
Strategy #8: Answer every question with a question.
If the unthinkable should happen and you find yourself cornered, take a page from Ron Swanson and turn every question they ask around on them. “Is it appropriate for the president to encourage a foreign leader to investigate his political rival?” “Is that what happened?” “Do you think that what the president said on the Ukraine phone call constitutes a quid pro quo?” “Oh, do you speak Latin?” And so on. Keep it up until it’s dinner time and everyone has to clock out.
Strategy #9: Answer every question with a riddle, each more fiendish than the last.
You can also avoid taking too definitive a stance by simply constructing an elaborate scavenger hunt with clues scattered all throughout the city. The press will be so busy decoding them, going mad as your every cryptic message leads in turn to a new puzzle to be solved, that they won’t even notice you’ve already absconded to your lair to watch the fun from your closed-circuit network of hidden security cameras.
Strategy #10: Tell them your tummy hurts.
They have to send you to the nurse. No more interviews for you today!
Strategy #11: Ask if they’ve seen The Mandalorian yet.
The just-launched Disney+ series is the first live-action TV show to be spun from the Star Wars franchise, and viewers can’t stop raving about it. Werner Herzog is in it—that’s pretty weird, huh?—and there’s a Baby Yoda, plus something big happened with Greedo that we won’t spoil for you. Suffice it to say, there’s plenty of avenues for discussion here with your average journalist, who is almost assuredly some big nerd who friggin’ loves Star Wars. Isn’t the combination of blockbuster science-fiction and gritty, small-screen drama a far more fun and interesting topic than possible impeachment, and one that’s far more likely to attract page views? The press is sure to agree.
Strategy #12: Announce your retirement.
You’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and the moment suddenly just felt right to announce it officially, precisely as you were being asked an unrelated question. And now that it’s out there, it just doesn’t seem appropriate to comment on the internecine affairs of a system in which you are now just another humble citizen. Real people don’t much care about impeachment hearings, after all.
Strategy #13: Run.
Head west, racing the sun as it makes its slow arc toward the horizon. Feel free for the first time in years, with every step seeming to shed another pound of worry as you unburden the terrible weight you’ve been carrying for a man you know deep down would never do the same for you. Your mind, free of the cognitive dissonance that comes from trying to square your ideals with whatever compromise the party line demands, will be clear and calm at last, focused only on the thought of forward motion. You no longer hear the questions. You only hear the answer, subtle and persistent as a heartbeat, that was always deep inside.
Strategy #14: Play dead.
They can’t interview a corpse!